Mixing/Processing in Cuebase

Long-time musician, software developer, but new to the production world.

I have some compositions that sound fantastic on great speakers and on good headsets, but sound like crap on PC speakers.

Yes, crappy speakers == crappy sound. However, these works sound much worse on crappy speakers than I would expect.

I assume there are tricks of the trade that professional mixers use to “fix” the sound so that it’s maybe not quite as dramatic on great speakers, but also not so horrible on crap speakers. When I listen to music on my PC, it isn’t horrible.

I’d like to open a discussion on some of these professional tricks, as well as general rules of thumb for producing nice, clean recordings.

The work I’d like to use for reference is a mixed instrumental/choral work, scored for SATB, strings, harp, and the real troublemakers: drums. Specifically, I have two bodhrans, a doumbek, a bass drum, and a tam.

There’s a drum solo/cadenza in the middle that is introduced with a big crescendo roll on the bass drum and a strike on the tam, while the harp continues a repetitive ostinato to hold the pitch. The bodhrans hold down a basic polyrhythm, and the doumbek does the going-nuts solo thing.

On good speakers, the sounds remain distinct and crisp, with good spatial separation, and volumes seem balanced. On cheap speakers, the drums bury everything, the interplay of the two bodhrans turns into a grumble, and the tam vanishes completely into the muddle. The harp is inaudible until it crescendos near the end.

Tips? Anyone?

I don’t think there’s really any secret to getting mixes to translate well across many media. Even the pro’s check their mixes on a variety of setups, including car stereo, boombox, computer speakers, etc. I’ve read where the goal should be to make it sound reasonably good on as many media as possible, and not just really great on any one system, like your monitors. So I can’t offer any technical tips, other than to suggest that trial and error and adjustment is the only sure way to be, uh, sure

Let us HEAR this work you’d like to use for reference … then we can get specific.
I will soon be scoring for bass drum, bodhran, doumbek and two riqs, with cello, viola and oud accompanying voices. So your project and ensuing discussion interests me a lot.

Have you tried balancing it with the mono switch on?

Always a good idea :slight_smile:

or as an experiment try mixing on crappy PC speakers and occasionally checking on the big ones.

I found taking regular breaks made a good difference. You can get hypnotised by some thing and even a 5 minute walk out the room can refresh your senses. :slight_smile:

Good stuff Paul.
This is some of the best mixing advice you’ll find. If you are mixing for broadcast, crappy TV speakers are a must just for reference.
And regular breaks are good if only to keep your sanity with long hours, but if you are mixing at high levels, then you need to rest your ears and reset your zero… so to speak.

Very easily. I personally find that when that happens, I start tweaking too many things because I’m referring to the speakers in front of me, when they were already set for other systems. It’s my brain saying, “it can’t be that good on other systems if I’m not hearing it well in front of me…”.

But a break resets my focus as well as my ears. So it is definitely important to do.

It’s so easy to get caught up in silly little detail and miss the big picture! hours spent refining one little bit and miss the fact that the percussion is far too loud… been there, done that :smiley:

Things like bodhrans, a doumbek are quite difficult things to record well and balance, I would suspect from your description that you have too much bottom end flying around and/or not enough low mids/mids, the translation from full range monitors to little media/laptop speakers would go some way to indicate this.

Also don’t mix loud, mix at a normal level, giuve it a blast every now and then (if you want) setting levels at volume is imprecise!

As P.W pointed out, mixing on “crappy” speakers and checking on full range jobbies is an interesting approach that can pay dividends.

I have 4 set of speakers setup, my main monitors, some NS10’s, a pair of cheap small hi-fi and a big set of Mission Hi-Fi, don’t always use them all but handy for referencing occasionally.

Oh… and never underestimate the standing outside the room listening test (toilet/kitchen whatever) also serves to get you away from the focus for a while.

I can’t remember who originally posted this but sometime ago I copied and saved this tip this from the old forum, I hope it is useful to you :slight_smile: .

"I just read bit on about midrange and how the mids need to be right. Bob katz mentioend that a good mix would still sound good through on a bandwidth limited system.

So I just put an EQ on the master bus and used an LP filter at 5kHHz and an HP filter at 100Hz. ( The filters on the UAD-1 Cambridger EQ are great for this )

Interestingly I’ve got the low bandwidth tune playing at the moment, and I kinda got used to it, as you would get used to the sound of a little radio speaker.

So although this piece of wisdom is from a mastering book, I think it’s a great little idea for checking mixes. The theory being…

If the balance is good when there’s nothing below 100Hz and nothing above 5k then when you go full bandwidth again, anything out of whack is becuase it’s too bright or too dull, or too bassy, or not enough bass."



Go and listen to your mix from another room, sometimes this can reveal some gotchas that you totally miss sitting next to the monitors. How are the acoustics in your mixing room? Do you have treatment? Are you mixing on ported nearfields? A lot of issues in the lower and lower mids come down to the environment.

To be honest this translatability is what separates the men from the boys in this game, and only years of experience and a good (trained) set of ears really result in great mixes.

I have just finished mixing my album and have been listening to the pre-mastered tracks on all kinds of stuff from earbuds through multimedia speakers right up to reference hifi and though I think I have got things about right, I then put on stuff mixed by some of my studio heros and it’s suddenly put into perspective the huge gulf between a few thousands of pounds worth of gear in a home studio run by an enthusiastic amateur and a few hundred thousands worth (or more) in the hands of Alan Parsons or Bob Clearmountain, or whoever.

But it doesn’t stop me striving, and I hope you find the solutions that work for you

Great post Mauri – I need to incorporate that method

Regarding checking mixes in other rooms – I don’t object to that, but I wouldn’t make any big changes due to that, just because the acoustics are so uncertain – for example, does the bass sound weak from another room because it IS weak or is it just a result of the complex acoustical activity going on when you listen from another room?

Thank you all! !!!

So there seems to be a consensus that there is no magic bullet. Which makes perfect sense to me. There is no “magic bullet” to writing or performing music, either.

The advice you’ve all given is excellent. I just spent today remixing several pieces, and I’m a lot closer now.

I still need to try the “clip the (frequency) ends, mix it, put the ends back on” – that sounds useful.

The piece I started this with was definitely letting the drums overbear everything else. I think I still need to pull them back some more, but my ears are shot for today.

I’d like to take one more shot at this myself, then I’ll post the result and see what you all think might improve it.